Was it the promise of free coffee?
No… it was just Portlanders showing how proud we are of our artistic culture here in Portland, Oregon.
Today’s lunch chat was about Creative Cities, specifically our hometown of Portland, Oregon; and room 110 of PNCA was packed beyond capacity! [Honestly, I was hoping for more reference to other cities around the world, such as Brugge, Groningen, Barcelona,…] Commissioner Adams spoke about the creative paradox that we are currently experiencing here; namely that even though there has been a steady 5.5% annual growth in our economy for the last four years through the recession, mostly due to jobs in the design realm; we are ranking in the 24th/30th per capita in private arts support.
Why is this?
The few ‘high-end’ galleries that made it through the recession often speak about major patronage coming from Seattle and San Francisco, not Portland.
Are these creative just not spending their dollars here in Portland?
Are the dollars being spent going towards materialistic artifacts, instead of patroning the very art that we claim to love and support?
Whatever the specific reasoning, we have to start investing in our local artistic economy.
There is a rather notorious book by Richard Florida, which I might recommend reading “The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life”. This is not just something we have been tossing around here in Portland. It has become a competitive global issue, much like which country / city can produce the cheapest silicon wafters. Everyone want to be “the place”, and cities around the world are doing whatever then can to attract creatives. Mayor Katz had started the “DNA PDX: Design Genome” and Creative Economy Initiative [http://www.wweek.com/editorial/2945/4309], and Commissioner Adams looks to revive it with new vigor in the coming months.
Sam asked the packed room if applied arts designers [like those that design artificial knee joints, etc] are part of the creative class. An important question, as many ‘starving artists’ snub their noses at would-be patrons, calling them yuppie scum! I would propose that it does not matter what form of creativity one spawns, rather it is their intent to be creative and to help inspire creativity in the community around them that is important. Face it, you might hate my sculpture and I might vomit at your choice of pigment on canvas; but we are both helping to create an artistic culture. By bringing together your choice of color, and mine of form, we can create a daibatsu of artists [much like Everett Station Lofts http://www.artspaceusa.org/neighborhood/everettstation] that together create a critical mass that will bring patrons and eventually allow both of us to buy groceries and pay our rent. It is the “hey, I just made this… want it” mentality that is important. This might not mean that a patron drops hundreds of thousands on your lap to play as you will, but it might mean that the knee designer has the twenty bucks for an impromptu dance performance ticket, which will inturn allow you to buy another artist a cup of coffee…
Jan Kriekels and Arne Quinze of Belgium [http://www.uchronians.org] recently spoke about investing in artistic culture, explaining that the Medici system is coming back to life, and it needs to spread across the global economy at a variety of scales.
So, whether you are going to apply for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative [http://www.rolexmentorprotege.com], a RACC artist grant [http://www.racc.org/grants], or one of hundreds of other funding opportunities, start at home, and start today!
Oh, and buy a T:BA t-shirt!
Fredrick Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate